Gresham missionary lived, died serving Ugandans

Truck accident took the young man's life in January
by: contributed photo, Adam Langford didn’t have the most comfortable life in Uganda, but he wrote that he was “beginning to believe we need more people who are willing to enter into the suffering of others whether they can help or not.” Adam was killed January in a truck accident in Uganda.

Adam Langford helped the people of Uganda sell their coffee, but he was far more interested in touching their souls. In the end, it seems, they benefited greatly from both types of assistance he offered.

Adam was a member of East County Church of Christ, 24375 S.E. Stark St., Gresham, but since December 2005, he had lived as a missionary in Jinja, a city that sits on the source of the Nile River in Uganda, east Africa. His church is among a number of Churches of Christ in this country that support missionary and economic development work among impoverished Ugandans.

The Oklahoma City native was 28 when he was killed Jan. 16 riding in a truck that went over the edge of a mountain road. Although the driver survived, another passenger, Moses Kimezi, 36, a local church leader, was fatally injured and died hours later in a nearby hospital.

Adam and Moses were hauling coffee beans to be used at The Source Café in Jinja, a coffee shop that also features a library and Internet service. Proceeds from the coffee shop support missionary and development work, said Brent Abney, also an East County Church member and a veteran of the Ugandan missions himself. Adam had interned with Abney in Uganda during the late '90s, Abney says, and the two men worked together in the finance industry in Gresham.

Adam's older brother, Ben, and his wife, Kym, also serve the Jinja mission, said Terry Langford, Adam's father. The couple, which returned to the United States for Adam's funeral, celebrated the birth of their second son in Oklahoma City on Feb. 28, Terry said. The couple plans on giving their boy the middle name of Adam, he said.

The Rev. Lewis Robinson, pastor of East County Church of Christ, says Langford's death shocked and saddened those he left behind in Gresham. The church is planting a tree in April to memorialize a man beloved by both the church's children and adults, Robinson says.

'He was very outgoing, very fun-loving,' Robinson says. 'He didn't take himself too seriously.'

What he did take seriously was his faith and improving the welfare of others, Abney said. To illustrate his point, Abney says Adam had given up a promising career as a financial advisor in Gresham to work in Uganda.

'Adam always had a sense of the eternal,' Abney says. 'The material things ultimately were not what was most important to Adam Langford.'

Adam grew up in a churchgoing family and fell in love with the missionary life after going to Honduras as a teenager with a church group, his father said.

'He's always been adventuresome,' Terry says, adding that his son moved with ease among different social groups.

'He could talk to anybody, from presidents to the poorest of the poor.' Terry says.

Abney echoed that point.

'His people skills were such that any politician would've envied his skills,' Abney says.

Yet Adam made it clear people would not necessarily envy the life he chose. In his last letter to his church, he described living in a house with no electricity for almost a month; taking freezing cold showers; and struggling to find the right words to say to a woman whose sister had died of AIDS. Yet, despite his trials, Adam said he was firmly convinced that being present to the Ugandan people was more important than dwelling on his own discomfort.

'Solutions are wonderful,' he wrote. 'Cures are amazing. Answers are great. But in this broken world, I am beginning to believe we need more people who are willing to enter into the suffering of others whether they can help or not.'

As for Adam's final recorded words, some would call it coincidence, others would call it providence, but Abney says Adam's friends and family have been comforted by the final text message Adam sent to Ben the day before he died.

Adam had worked with the Kibo Group, which supports various development projects in east Africa, and the group had attracted the attention of a local king. Adam was scheduled to meet the royal figure, and let his brother know.

'I am going to see the king,' Adam wrote. 'You can come with me if you want to.'